The Ultimate Breaking Bad Road Trip

This post references events from the series finale of Breaking Bad. If you haven’t yet seen the episode, don’t read any further.*****

During last night’s Breaking Bad series finale, Walter White drives a stolen Volvo nearly 3,000 miles from New Hampshire to New Mexico.

Although he’s estranged from nearly everyone in his life at this point, under different circumstances the cross-country trek would have made for an excellent family road trip, filled with fun for the whole extended White/Schrader clan. So gas up the RV and hit the road with this Breaking Bad-inspired road trip, bitch.

First up is a stop at the Herkimer Diamond Mine in Herkimer, New York, where Hank could search for rocks — ahem, I mean minerals — to his heart’s content. Alas, the mine’s name is a bit of a misnomer, you’re actually much more apt to find cheap quartz crystals than actual diamonds. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children.

Marie would love a visit to the Lambert Castle Museum in Paterson, New Jersey, where she can take in the world’s largest collection of antique and souvenir spoons. The 5,400 spoons come from as far away as Egypt and Holland and are extremely rare, so please refrain from slipping one discreetly in your purse.

No Breaking Bad-inspired cross-country trek would be complete without a visit to the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Walter White could spend hours visiting the various exhibits, including the aptly titled Sensing Change and Making Modernity. Asking how to properly cook blue sky is frowned upon though. Admission is free.

Before entering the museum, be sure to swing by Hats in the Belfry on South Street to pick up your own black porkpie hat and shades.

By this time, Walt, Jr. would have probably worked himself up quite an appetite. Flynn, a true breakfast aficionado, would appreciate Papa’s Pancake House in Indianapolis. Order the eggs, hashbrowns and bacon, and if it’s your birthday, don’t forget to spell out your age with the fried pig meat.

(Papa’s fried chicken is pretty good as well, but perhaps not as tasty as Twisters in Alburqurque, which served as Los Pollos Hermanos’ stand-in.)

There can be such a thing as too much family time, so Skyler might want to get in some more pool time. The Joule Hotel in Dallas, Texas, features an incredible rooftop infinity pool that sticks out eight feet from the building’s exterior.

What would you add? Where do you think would Jesse go? Where would Saul want to visit? After the road trip, who would head straight to Belize?

5 Prisons for Law-Abiding Citizens

In this lull between fun summer TV like “True Blood” and the fall premieres of network television shows, many people have been binge watching the Netflix comedy, “Orange is the New Black.” Set at a women’s prison in Rockland County, New York, the series has generated new interest in jail. (From the outside, at least.) Here are five notable prison museums around the world with flexible visiting hours for an easy escape.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA
Built as an “inescapable” prison on an island off San Francisco, Alcatraz has had quite a few famous inmates, including Al Capone. The federal prison was closed in 1963 and has been a museum for several decades. In addition to the prison museum, it also has the country’s oldest lighthouse and a permanent exhibition on the historic Native American occupation. Tickets are a steep $30 and up per adult, but they include transportation, since you can’t make it off “the Rock” alive.Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA
Another stop on Al Capone’s “jail tour,” this Center City Philadelphia jail has been the set for several films including “Twelve Monkeys” and the Transformers sequel, and many TV shows about ghosts and jails. The self-guided audio tour (narrated by Steve Buscemi!) details the history of the prison, active from 1829 to 1969. Regular tickets are $14, and look out for special events; the Halloween Haunted House is especially popular.

Gestapo Headquarters and Pawiak Prison, Warsaw, Poland
Telling another part of the Holocaust, these two related historical sites in Warsaw show what it was like to be interrogated and imprisoned in the gruesome Nazi occupation. Part of the Polish city’s excellent collection of museums, they are free to visit and well-maintained, though very somber.

Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa
The isolation of the small island near Cape Town made it a fitting site for a leper colony, a military training station and a place for political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was the most famous of former inmates for 18 years; he was one of dozens imprisoned during apartheid. Tickets are about $22, including ferry transportation to and from the mainland, a bus tour of the island and “interaction” with a former prisoner. President Obama visited the island and museum this summer, and was “deeply humbled” by the experience.

Tuel Sleng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The secret prison of Pol Pot, dictator of Cambodia in the 1970s and leader of the Khmer Rouge, Tuel Sleng is now a museum cataloging the genocide perpetrated there. The museum contains the 6,000 detailed photographs and records of inmates left by prison staff, though as many as 30,000 were said to have been detained, tortured and murdered there. The museum is preserved as it was found in 1979, and is an important site, along with the “Killing Fields,” documenting and memorializing the victims of this dark regime.

Would you visit a prison?

Video Of The Day: Subway Panhandler, With A Twist

Ride the subway system in many large cities, and you’ll probably encounter a panhandler or two. Whether they’re dancing, playing a guitar or flat-out begging, it can seem that everywhere you turn, someone is asking for your spare change.

Riders on this Philadelphia train thought they were in for more of “the usual” — until this panhandler opened his mouth. Check out the video and tell us, what’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on a subway train?

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On The Road With NPR Music: John Vettese At WXPN, Philadelphia

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling; largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Name: John Vettese

Member station: WXPN, Philadelphia

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Philly Local Show co-host on WXPN; editor, writer, photographer at The Key

1. When people think of music in your city, what do they think of?

A lot of things; different things. Some people think of the Rocky theme, or that Elton John song; ’70s Philly Soul is a big association people have with us, of course – and a good one to have. As far as artists active in present day, it’s not so easy to pin down. The most successful musicians that have emerged from Philly in the past few decades range from hip-hop (The Roots, Meek Mill) to psych-rooted, classic-rock-informed bands (Dr. Dog, The War on Drugs) to wild art-rock (Man Man, Kurt Vile) and singer-songwriters (Amos Lee, Melody Gardot), which, for me, covering the scene, is great – it keeps it fresh and exciting, and doesn’t make Philly music so easily reduced to a “sound.” You know, grunge/Seattle, garage/Detroit, psych/SanFran, punk/DC etc. Philly has all of those things; there’s no one single thing it makes people think of, musically – which I guess is the one common refrain you’ll hear.

2. How do you help curate that musical scene?

I stay open-minded. And I try to showcase a little bit of everything. For about three years now, I’ve produced a weekly series of in-studio recording sessions with Philly musicians – it airs on WXPN on Tuesday evenings and is released as downloadable audio on The Key on Wednesday mornings – and I make sure the artists I bring in for The Key Studio Sessions are, for the most part, representative of that range. This makes for some interesting and unusual week-to-week match-ups. In January / February, for instance, we had a traditional folk trio (The Stray Birds) one week, a rockin’ alt-country five-piece (The Naked Sun) the next, an aggro thrash band (Pissed Jeans) the next. We’ve had metal, hip-hop, experimental, electronic, blues … I’m recording my first Brazilian music band later this spring. I do often wonder, for instance, what the audience that tuned in (or went to the blog) for the emo-punk group the one week might think of the ethereal singer-songwriter the following week. But looking at the bigger picture, I feel like if it didn’t have that kind of range, it wouldn’t really be showcasing Philly.

3. How has that scene evolved over the last few decades?

Kind of like the music scene nationwide, it’s become a lot more self-reliant. Getting a label deal isn’t something bands are realistically expecting. They hope for it, sure, and many take the opportunity when it arises – The War on Drugs are on Secretly Canadian, DRGN King is on Bar/None, etc. But I’ve also heard stories of musicians turning down label deals because they are fine doing it on their own and don’t want to trade that freedom for restrictions or demands from an outside party (in exchange for better exposure, hypothetically anyway). Musicians are really learning to do things themselves – book shows, handle publicity, fund recording projects and put more care and artistry into their self-released products. When I started covering the scene in the late ’90s, self-releases were treated like demos – tossed-off, hastily recorded, quick and cheap things to get an artist’s songs out there, figuring that they’d rerecord them for real once they get signed. And while an EP released to Bandcamp is still, pretty much, a demo, I’m noticing they sound a lot more like finish products than any CD I received ten years ago. (When they go the extra step and press it to vinyl, even better.)

Other changes – the studio scene in Philly has boomed, and rather than a room or two monopolizing everybody’s recordings, there are now between a half-dozen to a dozen major players (in addition to the do-it-yourselfer basement studio types). I like this for a couple reasons – competition is good for business, of course, and it also gives more variety to the recordings that are making it out there, rather than one producer’s sound dominating all corners of the scene.

Live music venues in the city ebb and flow, as they are wont to do, but there’s more of a sense of stability than there was when I began covering Philly music. Johnny Brenda’s and World Cafe Live have been around for a solid six years; new small to midlevel rooms like MilkBoy, Underground Arts and Union Transfer are doing well for themselves; even our 3500-cap room The Electric Factory is pressing on amid somewhat tricky times and a bizarre split with promoter Live Nation that’s probably too inside-baseball to get into here. Suffice it to say, we’ve thrived as a live music scene, against (some) odds.

4. What would you say is the most unique thing about your music scene?

The variety that I mentioned before, which I guess might not be THAT unique – every city has a hiphop scene, a punk scene, a folk scene, etc. But what is unique is the way Philly’s variety is so embraced by the scene players and the scene supporters, and even leads to cross-pollination and collaboration. For instance – there’s an Americana band called The Lawsuits that’s been making a modest amount of local buzz for a year or two now, and they were on a bill last summer with a rap three-piece called Ground Up. Now, to qualify what I’m about to describe – this isn’t a scenario where the former is some sort of funk-based jam band and the latter is some hippie backpacker rap crew, so they were kind of close in sound and style to begin with. The ‘Suits are a very Dylan-esque group, very songwriting-oriented and very much on the polar opposite end of the spectrum from Ground Up, which is uncompromising, hard-hitting, rap-for-rap-fans. But at this show, facilitated somewhat by two managers who grew up together, the band played an opening set, and then stayed onstage to act as the house band for the rap crew. It was great, went over huge with the crowd, and led even further to some studio collaboration that’s so far only yielded a few YouTube videos, but a lot of folks – myself included – are stoked to hear the results.

5. What are three new up and coming bands on your local scene right now and what makes them distinct?

These are all “new” as in within the past five or so years. All unsigned, with strong local fan bases and making outroads across the U.S. and elsewhere.

Hop Along – Punk-informed, introspective and arty rock trio centered by Frances Quinlan’s songwriting. She’s got a unique, powerful voice – one local critic described it really well by saying her singing isn’t classically “lovely” but is gritty, passionate and carries a tremendous range of emotion – and the band’s songs are very expressive, explosive, structurally unconventional and way exciting. They released their latest LP “Get Disowned” last year, toured the U.S. in support of it, and are embarking on their first European tour this spring. Listen to Hop Along’s “Tibetan Pop Stars.”

Cheers Elephant – Zany, playful psychedelic pop/rock foursome with three solid albums, a great track record as performers and the smarts to realize that getting out there and hitting the road is the way to grow your band. They’ve mounted several successful national tours and back home, their past two album release shows have sold out the 800-cap World Café Live. Their latest LP is called “Like Wind Blows Fire,” and it came out last year. Listen to Cheers Elephant’s “Leaves.”

Chill Moody – Somewhat of a minor local celebrity thanks to his masterful knack at working the social media world, Chill Moody has dropped about three mixtapes a year since 2009 and is a true showman, the type who kicks his show off by walking from the lobby, through the crowd, then up onstage. His style is very throwback and easygoing, recalling A Tribe Called Quest and Pharcyde, but he knows how to be hard-hitting without being overly macho. His first commercial album, “RFM,” was released on iTunes this winter. Listen to Chill Moody’s “Cotton.”

6. For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

Aside from the above, here are six tracks that were performed live for The Key Studio Sessions, my aforementioned sessions series.

Gymnopiede 1.2″ – Lush Life

“Bathroom Laughter” – Pissed Jeans

Sugar Sand Stitched Lip” – Heyward Howkins

Saint, Don’t You Lie” – New Sweden

End it On This” – Ethel Cee

Winter Misser” – Bad Braids

[Photo Credit: George Miller III]

Follow our Exclusive NPR Music series during all of April.

Airports As Art Galleries? London Says Yes

Airports around the world have a lot of wall space to fill. Cavernous spaces inside terminals often mimic outside parking spaces wide enough for jumbo jets. To fill that space, those who plan airports use huge sculptures, gigantic paintings and other works of art. Now, London’s Gatwick airport will be the home to several works by British pop artist Sir Peter Blake.

Best known for his design of the album cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Blake has had international appeal for decades. Unveiling his new London-inspired collection, Blake has created works for each terminal that celebrate all that is great about London, while welcoming visitors.

Being installed in Gatwick’s North and South terminals, the permanent installation shows London through the ages with more than just a photo here or a sculpture there. The collection promises to immerse passengers from the time they get off the plan until they claim their luggage.”This project instantly captured my imagination – a chance to showcase London to an international public and to remind Brits how great it is to be back on British soil,” Blake said in a Breaking Travel News report.

Separate from ongoing efforts to upgrade airport operations, the idea came from an airport passenger panel that wanted visitors or those returning from holidays to get a real sense of arrival in Britain.

Some other airports with great art?

Denver International Airport has permanent art exhibits, including a 32-foot-tall, bright blue, fiberglass horse sculpture with gleaming red eyes called “Mustang.” The 9000-pound work comes from New Mexico artist Luis Jiménez.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has a collection that depicts messages of world peace, community and friendship. Organized by The Colorful Art Society, Inc. and People to People International, the collection changes on a rotating basis.

Philadelphia International Airport also rotates its collection, established in 1998 as an exhibition program on display throughout its terminals. Called their Art In The Airport program, it provides visitors from around the world access to a wide variety of art from the Philadelphia area.

Here’s more on airport art, including the collection at Washington’s Reagan National Airport:

[Photo Credit: Flickr user scorzonera]